This Time, “The Young” Speak – Katy Day

In my previous post, “Poetry for the Young (and the Young-Hearted)”, I promised you voices of our young poetry lovers.

First up is HoCoPoLitSo’s Student on Board Member, Katy Day.  Katy is a student at University of Maryland, College Park who is studying English and Psychology. She has been a friend of HoCoPoLitSo’s since 2013.  She made her Blackbird Poetry Festival debut in 2013.  Billy Collins, who came to HCC to read at the 2014 Blackbird Poetry Festival, is an admirer of Katy’s poetry (as evidenced by the photo below). She is currently studying poetry with Stanley Plumly at College Park.

I asked Katy some questions to get her take on encountering poetry.

What do you get out of attending poetry and literary events?

All of my time studying literature and poetry hasn’t prepared me to fully articulate the degree to which attending poetry readings and other literary events have influenced my life.  The first poetry reading I ever attended was the Blackbird Poetry Festival in 2013.  I knew that I had discovered something great when I attended Blackbird that year.  I felt like I belonged there and like I had finally found something that I really felt passionately about.

 As a student and as a citizen of this world, what benefits do you see in reading and studying literature (especially poetry)?

Studying literature and poetry has expanded my mind.  It has allowed me to discover who I am as a person by changing and building upon my thoughts and beliefs about the world.

What’s your favorite work of literature (a particular poem, poet, or novel maybe)?

I can’t choose a single favorite.  I love poetry and literature for several different reasons and I think that different works of poetry and literature have enriched my life in different ways.  I can read David Sedaris over and over again and still laugh until I’m crying and marvel over his perfected comedic timing.  The more I learn about poetry and literature, the more particular my interests become also.  I read Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm and was blown away by not only the anticipation of modernist literature in the experimental style of her writing, but also by her progressiveness, which I think even surpasses many of our contemporary thinkers.  Oscar Wilde has also greatly influenced the way in which I consciously navigate and perceive the world.

Do you have any thoughts on what literary organizations like HoCoPoLitSo can do to engage young people?

This is a tough question.  It’s hard to get people of any age interested in poetry. Billy Collins says that high school gives people “anti-poetry deflector shields.”  Any time poetry is encountered, the automatic response is to avoid it.  Becoming interested in poetry is like opening a set of nesting dolls.  You have to begin with poems that speak to non-poetry adherents.  Then, like the nesting dolls that become smaller and smaller, your interests become more and more refined as you explore various kinds of poetry.  I think these anti-poetry deflector shields come from teachers who forgo the big nesting dolls and instead present their students with poems that require the refined interest that comes with exposure and extensive study.  I gained this perspective through my experiences at Howard Community College and through attending HoCoPoLitSo events.  HoCoPoLitSo has done an exceptional job in the past few years bringing poets to Howard County who excite young people and act as gateways into poetry.

Here’s at least one awesome young person in whose hands we can trust the future of poetry in Howard County and beyond.

-Laura Yoo

Member, HoCoPoLitSo Board of Directors

“Why poetry?”: Steven Leyva wins teachers’ hearts and minds

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Steven Leyva

The Friday Professional Development Day for Howard County’s English and language arts middle and high school teachers was cold and damp, there was a car fire on Route 29 that jammed traffic for an hour, and teachers were rushing in late and texting their supervisors.

Steven Leyva had one hour to convince those teachers that poetry was worth teaching.

Leyva faced the auditorium of 220 educators and cleared his throat.

The power point he had prepared flashed the question: “Why Poetry?”

Leyva, sponsored by HoCoPoLitSo to give the teachers a poetry pep talk, passed around two sheets of paper, asking the teachers to write two collective poems. The first lines? “I know that poetry is not” and “Poetry has power.”

At first, some of the teachers were imitating their students — coughing, checking their phones, shuffling papers. But as Leyva explained that he edited the Little Patuxent Review, taught in the Baltimore City schools for years (a round of applause for that one), and was now a professor at the University of Baltimore, they quieted down.

Then a quote from Richard Howard appeared on the screen: “Verse reverses, prose proceeds.” Leyva started to talk about the “magical” things poetry can do: act as a force for healing, open up a student who is closed down, make connections between people, create empathy.

But everyone has to start as a novice, he says, even teachers.

“This is vital when we’re trying to engage students who may not be interested or receptive to poetry,” Leyva said. “It’s OK to be a beginner. You’re don’t have to be good at this right away.”

He read Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese,” and talked about letting the language wash over you as you read, about how meeting a poem is like meeting a new person because it’s both intimidating and exciting.

“It’s demanding, it’s hard, but that’s the beauty of it,” he said. “Some of them may have past negative experiences with poetry, they may have anxiety over misinterpreting.”

Too many classrooms treat poetry as a riddle to be solved, he said, “it must be an experience,” and then quoted one of his professors, “Art doesn’t need our judgment, it needs our attention.”

He asked for volunteers, and four teachers trooped up to the stage to read “Memory from Childhood” by Antonio Machado. The first teacher read the words of the poem. The second vocalized each piece of punctuation, “Comma!” or “Colon,” he boomed. The third said “line break” at each line break, and the fourth said “stanza break,” when the poem reached that point. If they messed up, as they did several times, they had to start again at the beginning, which drew hoots and laughter from their fellow teachers. The audience, he explained, had to recite the title and be the silence in the poem. That exercise, Leyva said, showed students that everything in the poem, even its white space, is put there on purpose, and needs a reader’s attention. “Everything matters,” he said.

By the time he had the teachers yelling out each personal pronoun (“Me!” and “My,” they chorused) in Lucille Clifton’s “Won’t You Celebrate with Me,” they were leaning forward in their chairs, more than interested.

And when a YouTube clip of “Direct Orders” by Anis Majgani wasn’t loud enough because of a sound system glitch, someone called out, “Read one of your poems!” Leyva did, reciting a poem about New Orleans, his hometown.

He went on to talk about form, rhyming (“you’re saying these two things belong together — “there’s a reason why wife, life and knife all rhyme,” he said), resources, and the skills that reading poetry can develop (qualitative judgment, empathy and imagination).

Teachers asked him about web sites and Split This Rock, stayed after to talk to him about submitting poetry to the Little Patuxent Review, and wrote down the TED talks and books he suggested. And a few gave him a standing ovation.

Jocelyn Hieatzman, a teacher at Oakland Mills High School, wrote afterward about the program, “I spend the next hour listening, and interacting, and awkwardly jumping onto the stage, and feeling chills and tears and ideas flow through me. I shout ‘N’Awleans’ and listen to spoken word from the Seattle Grand Slam poetry championship; I listen to Stephen Leyva recite his own poetry from memory like his life depended on it; I read through poems that touch on complex ideas and sadness and culture and race and identity and beauty. Suddenly, everything is important, everything has weight. I think of our students and their big emotions and secrets and ideas and gifts.

community poems-art“There’s still a car fire snarling traffic on Rt. 29, and we are are still distracted and cold and worried about all the the things that middle and high school teachers worry about.  But ‘we’ have become a ‘we’ and share a collective experience, and we dig deep, and we remember why we love to teach what we teach, and we carry this on. And we carry this on. And suddenly … everything is important, everything has weight.”

And those community poems? The ones Leyva asked the teachers to write, with each contributing a line? The paper filled up fast. The writing is tough to read, but the poems are published here, and like most poems, they’re worth reading.

— Susan Thornton Hobby
HoCoPoLitSo recording secretary

Writers Come to see Writers.

I have a lot of HoCoPoLitSo memories. They start from way back when I was in high school and I had no idea the organization existed or what it did. All I remember was that I was on a field trip that left me wanting to be Derek Walcott once I grew up. Though a favorite HoCoPoLitSo memory, that is another story. Today I want to share a few moments of writers coming to see writers and what an honor it is to be in the midst of such occasion.

Many stories start with Irish Evening for HoCoPoLitSo. It is a landmark event. I think my awareness of other writers coming to HoCoPoLitSo events to see our headliner started one such evening. Maybe it was the Guinness, but more probably it was Colm Tóibín that brought Colum McCann down to our neck of the woods from his Manhattan apartment for the 21st annual Irish Evening. At that point in the now world famous career of Tóibín, it was a rare thing to him to this side of the Atlantic. McCann took advantage and a train to visit Columbia a year after he himself had read for Irish Evening.

I remember little of the reading that night. I seldom remember Irish Evenings and that is not for the drinking that often followed. They are labor intensive occasions to produce and I tend to be tending to that aspect. Tóibín’s voice is still in my head and bits of The Heather Blazing from that reading; I did catch some of it. What I do remember is that there were a handful of folks, me lucky enough to be among them, that headed off into the night with a number of bottles to listen to Colm and Colum talk about writing once the event was done and packed away. What an honor.

Quite recently, Colum McCann, now many books into his fame, came to another Irish Evening to read from Transatlantic, just about to be published. It was his first reading of the work to an audience and a fascinating occasion as he caught a sentence he hadn’t right and promised us he would go back to the galleys to correct it. An honest moment in the creative process.

I spotted a number of Howard County writers in attendance that evening. They were joined by none other than Alice McDermott and, I am told, George Pelicanos. The two had come from Baltimore and Washington, respectively, to take in one of the masters of prose in suburban Columbia. If we are dropping names here, I’ll add that the Governor came from Annapolis and even joined in to play with the band. After the evening at the green room party, McCann himself joined in the singing of songs.

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Stanley Kunitz in his garden on the cover of his book The Wild Braid.

Perhaps my favorite coming together of writers to see a particularly treasured writer was for the poet Stanley Kunitz in 1993. We all knew Mr. Kunitz was old old, 88, and that this would be the last opportunity we would have to see him. In a space that no longer exists as a venue for readings – the lower Nursing Lounge on the campus of Howard Community College – Kunitz read to a standing room only crowd that adored each and every syllable. The audience well knew his work and you could tell that he could tell: he put on a commanding performance.

I remember crowded in that room with us were Carolyn Forché and Gregory Orr who had come up from the University of Virginia for the occasion.  Afterwards at a reception, all whispered to each other in awe and confirmed how lucky we were to have shared this intimate occasion with the great Stanley Kunitz. I went on to hear him read a number of times since that occasion: our collective luck grew as he lived to be 100.

Why do writers come to see other writers? For the occasion of Kunitz, it was likely reverence and the notion of ‘this might be the last time’ and one not to miss. On other occasions, it is probably more outright a taking in of craft, an opportunity to learn and admire. I know I go see other writers to learn and affirm what common language can do in the hands of masters. Thank you for that, HoCoPoLitSo.

 

Tim Singleton
Co-chair, HoCoPoLitSo Board

 

Have a favorite HoCoPoLitSo memory? HoCoPoLitSo is currently celebrating its 4oth season and would love to hear from you. Visit the Share Your Memory page and share a favorite story or two with us. As we collect favorite memories, we’ll share them in a future blog posts.

Susan Hobby Reviews Irish Evening and the Multitudes that are Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue contains multitudes.

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Emma Donoghue. Photo by Lee Waxman

The Irish novelist writes from the point of view of a five-year-old imprisoned with his mother (Room), a French erotic dancer in 1870s San Francisco (Frog Music), a Victorian spinster enmeshed in a friend’s nasty divorce (The Sealed Letter), and a formerly destitute prostitute and fashion fiend of the eighteenth century (Slammerkin).

On Feb. 6, HoCoPoLitSo’s 37th Annual Irish Evening of Music and Poetry featured Donoghue and her various voices. The Dublin-born novelist read from two books, her blockbuster Room and her latest, Frog Music.

The audience ate it up. Donoghue’s voice flipped from character to character as she read from Frog Music. During the dialogue, Donoghue’s voice changed from the rough Irish of the spreading Irish-American family MacNamara — the youngest boy to the frazzled mother and the slightly drunken father — to the accented lilt of a French-born erotic dancer Blanche, to the husky farmer bartender next door.

And when she read from Room, Donoghue mimicked the open-faced innocence and twisted grammar of a five-year-old. As the screenwriter for the independent film of her novel, due out in the fall of 2015, Donoghue said she thoroughly enjoyed sitting on set, keeping her mouth shut, as the actors brought her novel to life.

In her first introduction for HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening, new Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson explained that a recent gala theme, “Ireland: Legendary and Contemporary,” made her think of Emma Donoghue. “Emma is a natural cosmopolitan. She moves easily in time and space and between historic and contemporary space. … She is a vivid narrator for our time.”

Earlier in the day, that vivid narrator sat down with D.C. novelist Mary Kay Zuravleff to film an edition of The Writing Life, HoCoPoLitSo’s writer-to-writer talk show (www.youtube.com/hocopolitso). The two writers laughed and talked about Donoghue’s work, which includes a dozen books of fiction, literary criticism, numerous short stories, plus several plays and radio dramas.

Donoghue spent her first 20 years in Dublin, “that early marinating leaves a mark,” she laughed, as the youngest of eight children.

“It made us competitive and loquacious,” she said. “It was a big and noisy, bookish house. My dad is a literary critic (Denis Donoghue, the Henry James professor at New York University).”

Her books, Donoghue explained, are “fiction that walks arm in arm with fact.”

Frog Music tells the story of a real unsolved murder from the point of view of Blanche, the “burlesque (to put it generously) dancer,” Donoghue says, a woman who is a new friend to the murder victim, Jenny Bonnet. Bonnet was, Donoghue says, “the ideal murder victim; she was born trouble.” The victim, a cross-dressing frog-catcher for San Francisco’s restaurants in the 1870s, and most of the characters in this novel, are based in a history that Donoghue meticulously researched.

Laura Yoo gets her book signed by Emma Donoghue. Photo by Lee Waxman

Laura Yoo gets her book signed by Emma Donoghue. Photo by Lee Waxman

Room is the least fact-based of her novels, Donoghue told the audience, but did take its premise from a real headline — a young Austrian woman kept captive by her father, Josef Fritzl, who sired seven children with her and kept three of those children imprisoned as well. Donoghue says she thinks of Room as part fairy tale, part science fiction and “a bit like a nightmare.” Five-year-old Jack tells the story — imprisoned with his mother, Jack doesn’t know there is more to the world than the room in which they are captive, thanks to the protective, magical world his mother builds with him in their small space.

Donoghue said that she doesn’t like to repeat herself, so she sets up new challenges for herself. Her next project is a book for the middle school market — “I’m far more scared of them as an audience,” she laughed. They might throw spitballs, she laughed.

Friday night’s listeners didn’t throw anything but applause Donoghue’s way. And they clapped (and some danced) through the second half of the evening, the concert of traditional Irish music and step dancing by Narrowbacks and young dancers from the Culkin School.

The Irish Evening is a long-standing tradition that helps raise money for HoCoPoLitSo’s programs for adult and student audiences. We need your support to produce these kind of events. Please consider clicking our “donate button on this page.

 

Susan Thornton Hobby
Recording secretary
Howard County Poetry and Literature Society board

HoCoPoLitSo Recommends: Kay Ryan in Frederick on Super Bowl Sunday

While we are busy preparing for next week’s Irish Evening with Emma Donoghue — do you have your tickets? — we want to take a moment and recommend an event that is quite a favorite, the Super Bowl Sunday reading in Frederick, Maryland. This year, the wonderful Kay Ryan is to read at the free event.

As the Frederick News-Post reports:

Ryan will be in Frederick on Sunday [February 1st] as part of the C. Burr Artz Poetry/Lecture Series, kicking off the 2015 Frederick Reads season, the theme of which is Season of Wonder: Escape the Ordinary. Past poets in the annual event, traditionally held at the Weinberg Center on Super Bowl Sunday, have included Billy Collins, Nikki Giovanni and Natasha Tretheway, among others. A reading of her work will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

We will admit there are a number of best parts to this event. One is, obviously, the magnificent Kay Ryan. Two, for us, is that it is an event we are not producing, thus can sit back and selfishly enjoy the occasion, all ears and not a care in the world. The third is that, for those of us that fancy football, it gets not in the way at all of Super Bowl Festivities, though we admit that E. Ethelbert Miller was a little startled that we would do anything but put on jerseys and pregame with chips, guacamole and salsa and banter prior to Sunday evening’s sporting occasion. Don’t worry, the folks at Frederick Reads will have you back in time for all of that. The reading is perfectly placed into the day at 2 p.m.

We hope to see you there and we hope to see you the following Friday for our wonderful evening of Irish writing, music, and dance.

Kay Ryan Flyer

37th Annual Irish Evening w/Emma Donoghue, Narrowbacks, Step Dancing on Feb. 6th

emma-donoghue-2013HoCoPoLitSo’s guest for its 37th Annual Irish Evening is the international best-selling and award-winning author Emma Donoghue. She will read from her work starting at 7:30 p.m., February 6, 2015, at the Smith Theatre, Horowitz Center for Visual and Performing Arts on the campus of Howard Community College.

General admission tickets are $35.00 each and are available on-line at irishevening.eventbrite.com or by sending a check payable and mailed to HoCoPoLitSo, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Horowitz Center 200, Columbia, MD 21044.

Donoghue, called “one of popular fiction’s most talented practitioners” by Kirkus Reviews, and a writer with “ingenuity” by the New York Times, will read from Room and her other novels. Donoghue’s reading will be followed by Narrowbacks in a concert of traditional Irish music with stepdancers from the Culkin School.

Donoghue has published eight novels and several pieces for radio, stage, and screen productions. Collectively, her works have won the Lambda Literary Award, the Stonewall Book Award for Literature, the Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction, and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. A film adaption of Donoghue’s heavily praised 2010 novel Room is currently in production, with director Lenny Abrahamson and Brie Larson set to star. Donoghue has also been in close running for the Giller Prize, the Man Booker Prize, the Governor General’s Award, and the Orange Prize.

2014 Narrowbacks photoThe Narrowbacks features Terence Winch on button accordion, Jesse Winch on bodhran and guitar, former Irish Tradition member Brendan Mulvihill on fiddle, Linda Hickman on flute and whistle, and Eileen (Korn) Estes on lead vocal and piano, who is the daughter of original Celtic Thunder lead vocalist Nita (Conley) Korn. Band members play a full range of traditional Irish reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, slides and slow airs. They will also sing a variety of songs, including original compositions.

To be displayed during the event is Denny Lynch’s photographic exhibition, ‘The Carrolls of Offaly and Maryland, A Photographic Essay,’ a series of photographs that came about from Lynch’s fourteen-year study of the history of the Carrolls. Lynch has said of the exhibit, “This exploration gave me the opportunity to photograph beautiful landscapes, castles, towns, and monuments associated with this family on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Donoghue follows other great Irish authors who have come to Howard County, including Frank McCourt, Eavan Boland, Hugo Hamilton, Paula Meehan, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, and Colum McCann, to name a few.  For years, HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening has recognized and celebrated the enormous impact of Irish-born writers on the world of contemporary literature.

Purchase IE Tickets

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Twenty Years, Twenty Poets, Volume II Celebrates 40 Years of HoCoPoLitSo

The Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, HoCoPoLitSo, will launch its poetry anthology, Twenty Years, Twenty Poets, Volume II, in honor of its 40th anniversary, at a reception on Friday, January 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Howard County Center for the Arts. The launch will be held in conjunction with the Howard County Arts Council and Howard County Tourism opening of two exhibits, Ho Co Open 2015 and Poetic Energetic. The reception will feature a poetry reading, live music and light refreshments and is free and open to the public. Snow date: Friday, January 30. For more information about the event visit: http://bit.ly/1t2ETim

1780643_10152624538113600_1943644175515385836_nThe Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo) has been producing live literary events for the community since 1974. Twenty Years, Twenty Poets, Volume II contains a selection of poetry from the variety of writers who have visited Howard County between 1994 and 2014, from the world-renowned Paula Meehan to the nationally acclaimed Mark Strand and Rita Dove. Distinguished authors such as Patricia Smith, Edward Hirsch, Mary Oliver and E. Ethelbert Miller have inscribed their words on the hearts of many Howard County residents; their poems are HoCoPoLitSo’s history, detailed in Twenty Years, Twenty Poets, Volume II. For more information, call HoCoPoLitSo at (443) 518-4568 or email hocopolitso@yahoo.com.

Joining us and reading will be contributor E. Ethelbert Miller. A frequent HoCoPoLitSo guest E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. Miller is the founder and former chair of the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. He served as a Commissioner for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities from 1997-2008. He is board emeritus for the PEN/ Faulkner Foundation.

specialeventThe author of several collections of poetry, he has written two memoirs, Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer (2000) and The 5th Inning (2009). Fathering Words was selected by the D.C. Public Library for its DC WE READ, one book, one city program in 2003. His poetry anthology In Search of Color Everywhere was awarded the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award in 1994.

HoCoPoLitSo is a nonprofit organization designed to enlarge the audience for contemporary poetry and literature and celebrate culturally diverse literary heritages. Founded in 1974 by National Book Award finalist Ellen Conroy Kennedy, HoCoPoLitSo accomplishes its mission by sponsoring readings with critically acclaimed writers; literary workshops; programs for students; and The Writing Life, a writer-to-writer interview show seen on YouTube, HCC-TV, and other local stations. HoCoPoLitSo receives funding from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts; Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County government; The Columbia Film Society; Community Foundation of Howard County; the Jim and Patty Rouse Charitable Foundation; and individual contributors.

Online sales of Twenty Years, Twenty Poets, Volume II will start after January 23rd event.

Poetry for the Young (and the Young-hearted).

HoCoPoLitSo’s forty years are full of cherished memories. In this blog post, board member Laura Yoo shares a favorite recent memory from the 2014 Lucille Clifton Poetry Series Reading with Rita Dove and violinist Joshua Coyne.

I was wowed, moved, and inspired during Rita Dove’s reading and Joshua Coyne’s music this past October. Their performances and their talk, facilitated by HoCoPoLitSo’s Co-Chair Tara Hart, was engaging and fascinating.

Meme-Eno-Nsikan-Akpan-DoveCoyne

Violinist Joshua Coyne and singer Emmet Tross pose with three very happy Akpan sisters.

But in my memory of that evening, I am thinking of three young women that I met after the event. They were simply giddy with excitement. They stood behind me in line to have their programs signed by Ms. Dove. They whispered to each other, “That was so cool” and “I wonder if she’d take a picture with us?” I offered to take a picture of them with Ms. Dove, and later they also posed with Coyne and his friend Emmett Tross the singer. These three young women were stirred by the whole evening.

While the performance by Dove and Coyne was phenomenal, it’s these three young women who linger in my memory after the event. I keep thinking, how can we get more of that?

Even as a professor in the English department at Howard Community College, I don’t often witness such excitement about literature, especially poetry, from young people. And this makes me sad. I just want to grab them and say, “Can’t you see? Don’t you see just how beautiful and amazing these words are?”

I think we’re all born with the capacity for creativity, and for poetry. Poetry is everywhere in the lives of children. Everything they do rhymes and the very way they acquire language itself is poetic. My kindergartener says that at school, before they eat, they say to each other, “Bon appetit. Now you may eat!” You can’t tell me that’s not poetry.

In his famous TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson says that schooling kills creativity, and I wonder if it also kills interest in experiencing others’ creative productions like poetry. Schooling has become a pragmatic and utilitarian endeavor. There is very little room for what are (inaccurately) perceived to be purely aesthetic endeavors like literature and other forms of art. But what many don’t realize is that there is so much usefulness in literature. Steve Strauss, a columnist for USA Today and a small business expert, tells us about a research on the impact of studying literature,

Keith Oatley, one of the researchers, said the reason fiction improves empathy is because it helps us to “understand characters’ actions from their interior point of view, by entering into their situations and minds, rather than the more exterior view of them that we usually have.” This improves interpersonal understanding and enhances relationships with customers and business associates. When you hire an English major, you’re likely hiring someone who brings cognitive empathy to the table. (from “Why I Hire English Majors” in The Huffington Post)

So literature is not only beautiful but also useful.

keep-calm-and-read-onBy the time young people graduate high school and enter a college course like introduction to literature, many of them see literature as a chore and poetry as a mystery. When it comes to literature, most of them stand somewhere between empathy and fear – and perhaps those two feelings are not mutually exclusive.

One way that HoCoPoLitSo tries to cure young people of this fear is through our Writer-in-Residence program. This year, Joseph Ross of Meeting Bone Man (2012) and Gospel of Dust (2013) is visiting high schools in Howard County for poetry workshops. He writes in his blog about the students he worked with at Homewood:

They were asking to be seen and heard, “tenderly.” […] While these young people had been through some difficult times, they used poetry to name their sadnesses and to face them. This is what the power of poetry looks like.

In addition, for many years HoCoPoLitSo has worked with Bill’s Buddies of the Folger Shakespeare Library to visit Howard County schools. This year, thanks to HoCoPoLitSo’ s sponsors and partners, middle school students from all over the county were visited by actors from Center Stage.

Recently, I learned that those three young ladies at the Dove and Coyne event were Nsikan Apkan and her two sisters. Nsikan is a student at Howard Community College with great interest in poetry. She even wrote an article about the event for HCC Times (check out page 19 of the October 2014

Student Katy Day taking a selfie with Billy Collins at Blackbird Poetry Festival 2014.

Student Katy Day taking a selfie with Billy Collins at Blackbird Poetry Festival 2014.

issue).

We also have young people like Katy Day who is HoCoPoLitSo’s Student on Board and a student at University of Maryland, College Park, studying English and Psychology as well as Faheem Dyer who is HoCoPoLitSo’s student intern from Atholton High School. You can read about Katy’s curious claim that “humanities ain’t like the Pre-Chew Charlie’s” and read Faheem’s review of the Dove and Coyne event for the Raider Review.

Young people like Nsikan, Katy, and Faheem will create and carry the future of poetry and literature in Howard County, in Maryland, in the US, and in the world.

In the next few weeks, I will share with you my interviews with Katy, Faheem, and Nsikan. They will tell you what draws them to literature, to poetry in particular. They will tell you about the future of poetry. And we will all see that we need not lose heart about the future of literature, of poetry. We have Katy, Faheem, and Nsikan.

Keep calm and read on.

— Laura Yoo
HoCoPoLitSo Board Member

Have a favorite HoCoPoLitSo memory? Share it with us through this online form and you may find the story the subject of a future blog post.

The Best Things We Read in 2014

According to HoCoPoLitSo Board of Directors members and staff, here are the best things we read in 2014.

DCMOne of my favorites was Dear Committee Members, a short entertaining novel by Julie Schumacher. The novel pokes fun at academia and academics in general, and it was fun to laugh at myself while laughing at the characters. A lighthearted book that I read over the course of two evenings snuggled up in my reading chair.

on such a full seaThat is not the experience I had (and am still having) with Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea.  Before you read the rest of this, I want to make clear that I love this book.

I’m having a year-long relationship with this book – I’ve been reading it all year mainly because I can manage to read only a few pages at a time (although this may not be a reflection on the novel but just my inability to concentrate at 11 o’clock at night when I finally settle down with a book).  It took some time and some mental-doing to really get into this dystopian novel by one of my favorite writers.  The novel takes place in B-Mor in the future. We follow the story of a young woman who ventures out of B-Mor to the “counties.”  The prose is poetic.  At times the story seems to move along a bit too slowly and the prose very dense.  The narrative structure and voice strike me as experimental.  It’s not exactly a page-turner, but perhaps we might call it a thought-turner. It’s challenging, thoughtful, and beautiful.  It’s quite an experience.

– Laura Yoo

member of HoCoPoLitSo Board of Directors

How it all began for Andrea

One night in 2008 is when my relationship with HoCoPoLitSo began as a last minute favor for a co-worker.  I said yes to serving as a volunteer at an event, and I am forever grateful I said yes.

That evening, I made the grave mistake of assuming what the occasion was going to entail and what sorts of people I would meet there. In my mind’s eye I had imagined Ego the food critic from the Pixar movie Ratatouille. Perhaps noses high in the air, shamelessly quoting pieces of literature as they try to “one up” each other on their knowledge base. 

Boy, was I wrong.

When I first arrived at the event I met the many board members who were both happy and grateful that I was there to volunteer, and as the event commenced I had the chance to meet and talk to the audience members who were attending the annual Irish Evening. Among the audience members, the age range was as wide as the sea and conversations were varied from the intellectual to the, “Hey there have you heard of this new author?” I was in heaven! And I continued to volunteer for HoCoPoLitSo events for many years.

I’ve always been a “closet” fan of literature and the arts although I never quite found the venue to both learn and share my appreciation for the art.  And now I had finally found my tribe, and I could come out of the literary closet and share my love of arts and literature with others. And no Pixar character in sight to date!

Recently when I was asked to join the Board of Directors, I enthusiastically accepted and felt as though the highest honor had been bestowed upon me. In the few meetings I’ve since attended I realize just how much work goes into every event, down to the very last detail and perhaps the most surprising revelation is how many events HoCoPoLitSo puts on within the calendar year. There’s constant planning, brain-storming, idea swapping, and meticulous work to bring as many events to the public as possible.

I was once told, “Anything worth having is worth working hard for”, and this is definitely an organization worth working hard for.

-Andrea L. Martinez

Andrea Martinez

Member, HoCoPoLitSo Board of Directors Member and long-time volunteer

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